I was introduced to Beatrice Alemagna's The Wonderful Fluffy Little Squishy while avidly perusing a favorites of 2015 list selected by folks working in the kid's book business. While at a kid's book conference in France, Jill Davis of Katherine Tegen books, an imprint of HarperCollins, had Alemagna's book pointed out to her by Elise Gravel, author and illustrator of the forthcoming book, I Want a Monster! (review to come this March.) This makes sense because The Wonderful Fluffy Little Squishy was originally published in France and and has a title you can't ignore, in English and French (Le merveilleux dodu velu petit). The indispensable purveyor of foreign kid's books in translation, Enchanted Lion Books, is responsible for bringing this book to our shores, translated by publisher Claudia Zoe Bedrick. Now that my kids are older and I can't really justify it, I have whittled my annual picture book purchases down to single digits. Based on Davis's review, the fact that Elise Gravel pointed it out to her, and the brilliant title, along with the fact that Enchanted Lion is the American publisher, I made The Wonderful Little Squishy my first and possibly only picture book purchase of 2016 and it was definitely worth it!
First of all, The Wonderful Fluffy Little Squishy is a gorgeous book - from the trim size to the thick cover and pages to the beautiful color palette Alemagna used for the book, including that popping pink that attracted Elise Gravel to the book. Alemagna begins her book by introducing readers to the narrator, Edith (but you can call me Eddie.) Eddie is five-and-a-half and, compared to her mom, dad and big sister, she thinks that she doesn't know how to do anything, even though the illustration above shows otherwise. Eddie is an effortless, effervescent hero, with her puffy, pink jacket, her ingenuity and unstoppability. When Eddie overhears snippets of her sister saying something that seems important ("birthday-Mommy-fuzzy-little-squishy.") she decides she needs to do something - but what?
Because she lives in a charming little village, Eddie is able to run out the door, from shop to shop, looking for the perfect present for Mommy. First stop? Mr. John the baker, who, "with all his wonderful squishy things," surely will be able to help Eddie. Sadly, all he has is a warm brioche, fresh out of the oven. Eddie pops it in her pocket and head out to the next shop.
And to the next shop. All the shop keepers try to help Eddie find that wonderful, fluffy, little squishy thing but only have trinkets to offer. Her pockets full of not exactly what she was looking for, Eddie even visits the "big grump," Theo the butcher.
About to give up, Eddie hears these "amazing little giggles" and sees it! Perched on the roof above her is an, "adorable little creature! My present with a thousand uses!" This leads to one of my favorite illustrations in The Wonderful Fluffy Little Squishy, among many, as seen below.
But, before Eddie can take that wonderful, fluffy little squishy home to her Mommy, she has to do some negotiating with Quentin, the garbage man. Fortunately, her friends in the village have given her just the things she needs to get that little fluffy squishy cleaned up and home to Mom - with the help of her WONDERFUL FRIENDS! The endpapers for The Wonderful Fluffy Little Squishy are fantastic - and slightly different. Below is the endpaper from the back of the book, where you see Eddie and all her wonderful friends along with the Fluffy on her head. At the start of the book, we see the friends and Eddie, minus the Fluffy. From cover to cover, The Wonderful Fluffy Little Squishy is . . . wonderful!